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Radio AM to FM: November 20, 1998

Manager Bob "Walt" Moore Kills KRLA

After years of sabotaging any chance for success as a music station, KRLA General Manager Bob Moore finally got his wish: KRLA will officially abandon the format it has held for over 39 years on November 30 when it becomes just another Los Angeles talk station.

Sabotage? Quite a strong word, especially since Moore time and again has proven that he knows less about running a radio station than the potted plant on my back porch ... and that plant is dead. Yet the facts speak for themselves:

* In spite of the well-known fact that radio sports programming is a bust in Los Angeles save for Dodgers baseball and Trojan and Bruin football, Moore courted the Clippers, Angels, Mighty Ducks, and eventually the Kings for play-by-play. As expected, even by the owner of the Angels and Ducks (notice that Disney's stations DON'T carry the teams on their own stations even though they own them?) the decision killed the ratings of nighttime personality Huggy Boy, for years the highest-rated show on KRLA's schedule and occasionally the top-rated music program in its time slot.

* When programmer Ricci Filiar and longtime consultant Guy Zapoleon left KRLA to launch Mega 100 last year, Moore did nothing, even though Filiar and Zapoleon were essentially stealing KRLA's format. According to sources close to the station, no non-compete clause was exercised; no attempt was made to block it at all. Now Mega is one of Los Angeles' most popular oldies stations.

* Moore continued to decimate the budget at KRLA in order to shift money over to sister KLSX. KLSX until recently was so far under performing that it was the laughingstock of Southern California. Yet KLSX could afford to advertise and promote itself while KRLA was left with nothing. No ads, no special promotions, nothing. Even the personalities, mostly part time (Moore allowed big-name full time talent to leave for KRTH years ago), were paid less than those at many other Los Angeles-area radio stations.

Why did he do this? No one knows except Moore, although it is well knows that he wanted to take KRLA talk as far back as 1987 when new studios were built. KLSX, in fact, currently uses the talk studios that were actually custom-built for KRLA.

On the other hand, the reasons station owner CBS wanted to take KRLA talk are a bit more obvious and perhaps a bit sinister. The obvious reason is that CBS wanted an outlet for their lame syndicated talk programming that no one else in Los Angeles would touch with a ten-foot pole.

More sinister is the fact that, unlike all of CBS' other Los Angeles radio properties -- KNX, KFWB, KLSX, KROQ, KCBS-FM, KRTH and KTWV, which are all targeted to and appeal to a predominately white audience -- KRLA appealed to a predominately minority audience, mostly Latino, and employed a high percentage of minority personalities and support staff. Could this have been part of the decision? I'll leave that for you and the FCC to think about.

In the meantime, the decision to drop music has been a huge blow to fans of classic cars restored to the finest detail. Many of those feature the original AM-only radios, and those owners are out of luck once November 30th roles around. Says one owner of a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air, "I can't add FM since it isn't original; now I can't even listen to the radio in my car."

That sentiment may not seem important, but it is repeated over and over among the many classic car owners in the South Bay. Perhaps someone, somewhere, will realize that, given the right combination of music and promotion, an AM oldies (or top-40) station can indeed earn respectable ratings numbers. Jacor? Want to give it a try?

Bad Omens

Moore fired the entire KRLA staff on November 10 (11/10); KRLA's frequency is 1110 AM.

On November 11th during a press conference to announce the format change, not one television station, not even CBS-owned Channel 2, bothered to cover the event.

Moore's one big (and only local) personality, Michael Jackson, will not be able to broadcast on the new KRLA until almost one full month after the format launch: KABC is holding Jackson to his contract until December 24th.

New Faces

The new personalities will be: 5 am to 9 am, Don Imus; 9 am to Noon, Jackson (beginning December 24th); Noon to 3 pm, Dr. Toni Grant; 3 pm to 7 pm, G. Gordon Liddy; 7 pm to 10 pm, Ronn Barr's Sports Byline USA; 10 pm to 1 am, simulcast with KLSX.

I have no doubt that the new format will earn higher ratings than the old, since this time mega-bucks will be spent promoting it. But the old format would have earned good ratings if someone who knows radio was running it and supporting it. Alas, Moore did to KRLA what he did to Pirate Radio, classic rock KLSX, and the old KHTZ: destroyed it. And it is another huge loss to Los Angeles.


Copyright © 1998 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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